There are lessons too for entrepreneurs from the Hajj

Sacrifice and flexibility are integral to entrepreneurs and pilgrims

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As millions of Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate Eid Al Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, few of them are also preparing to undertake Hajj or the pilgrimage, one of Islam’s main pillars.

The 10 days leading up to Eid are some of the most sacred days for Muslims since those who aren't undertaking the pilgrimage will be fasting, reading extra passages of the Holy Quran, praying and donating to charity.

The pilgrimage, a once-in-a-lifetime requirement for all Muslims who have the financial means and are physically able to perform its rituals, reminds us that sacrifice and flexibility are integral to both business owners and pilgrims performing the Hajj.

I haven’t performed Hajj yet, but my father who has been a few times recalls that being flexible is key to getting the most out of the spiritual journey.

A pilgrim dresses modestly, walks long distances and has to endure crowded religious sites, while remaining reserved and calm. Adopting a flexible mindset helps ease the hardships of the trip. “Be easy-going and everything will run smoothly,” he said.

In business, flexibility is also key to continuity. An important lesson I learnt from my experience as an entrepreneur is that the more flexible I became when put in an unfamiliar situation, the easier it became to handle.

For example, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we had to shift our entire business model to operate remotely. Although working from outside the office was an arrangement my company adopted years before the pandemic, the circumstances made the process more challenging. We had to meet clients for the first time remotely, close deals and even had to solve financial challenges without being in an office.

If we hadn’t been flexible and pivoted with every new challenge thrown our way, I would have had to downsize my business significantly and could have lost both my customers and team.

On the other hand, not embracing flexibility could be detrimental to your business. An acquaintance of mine ran a successful Greek restaurant that didn’t offer delivery or take out services to maintain exclusivity. He believed that delivery services would rob his clients from the unique experience provided in his restaurant. However, when dine-in halted amid the pandemic, he decided to not offer delivery and instead wait until the crisis ended. His restaurant eventually had to close.

Being flexible would have helped his business, but equally important was learning to sacrifice and let go of certain habits that could sabotage growth.

Sacrifice is also integral to Hajj.

When performing Hajj, pilgrims have to adhere to a code of conduct. They should refrain from using any foul language or from arguing with one another and should not fight, among other things.

Sacrifice is important if you want to be successful in business. In the initial stages, we will be sacrificing our time and our money or even a day job we had in the hopes of our dream business doing well.

The most important sacrifice I made was getting out of my comfort zone. During my teenage years, I didn’t like taking risks and I feared situations I couldn’t control. Being an entrepreneur, I had to let go of that mindset and that was probably one of the best investments I made in myself. I became more confident, fearless and welcoming of change.

As many of us will be unwinding this Eid holiday, I ask you to think about how embracing more flexibility and sacrifice can help your business in the long run.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.

Updated: July 18th 2021, 6:14 AM